Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Wellington Declaration

There's a lot of noise out there about the Wellington Declaration. Bang, Crash, Blammo, Boing, Fnard, Choing, Whizz, Oi, etc. I was fortunate enough to be part of the day that produced such a coherent, concise and basic language public treaty on the dire threat to freedom that is the Top Secret Copyright Treaty ACTA. I urge everyone to sign the petition in support of this declaration.

By happy happenstance, PublicACTA was held on the 300th anniversary of the first copyright law, the Statute of Anne. My interest in ACTA has been more focused on the not-so-distant past. The last really big technological leap before the Internet that disturbed the copyright barons was the Xerox copying machine. The Copyright Act 1976 was a direct consequence of the photocopier. That breakthrough introduced the idea of Fair Use, where various limited non-commercial uses were excluded from persecution. After all, they couldn't really regulate what a photocopier copies. Reality prevailed.

One effect of the Internet is to create an Infinite Xerox machine. Instead of responding to the new reality, the Very Large Rights Holders spent time and money on DRM, or lobbying the US government into passing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The general public ran rings around these restrictions, the former with DRM crackers, the latter with sheer numbers.

Not content with duping the supine American public, the US media giants tried pushing the World Intellectual Property Organisation into a global DMCA. When WIPO refused to do everything the American way, the Yanks walked out and decided to do it their way instead, unilateral pressure disguised as multi-lateralism and called it ACTA. The Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement that isn't.

There is no quid-pro-quo within the ACTA treaty, at least from what the leaks have implied. On the contrary, the Very Large Rights Holders have been litigating elsewhere to maintain exclusive use of many copyrights that should naturally have been released to the public commons.

One example springs readily to mind; Disney's monopoly on Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, and others. Disney refuses to stop milking Mickey Mouse. Matter of fact, they've even got NZ Customs doing their enforcement work. Only Disney can make derivative works from these old characters, which is a great shame. Anyone who has seen Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland could knows the truth of this. Failing that, spend a few minutes watching the mindless crap on the Disney Channel, where the new dead-eyed ghosts of old classics spout over-processed drivel. All the carefully chosen words of AA Milne have been forgotten in a miasma of nothing. Lewis Carroll's insanity rendered sensible, profitable.

There is nothing fair about ACTA. Please sign the Wellington Declaration.